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Chateau Musar, a wine landmark in troubled Lebanon, has become a virtual "cult" wine with its unusual, long-lived red and white wines that are released only years after the vintage. We'll discuss the recently released 1997 Musar red in this week's Wine Advisor Premium Edition. This biweekly, subscription-only E-letter offers trustworthy advice that makes it easy to shop with confidence when you're considering a more pricey bottle for a special occasion ... and your subscription helps support WineLoversPage.com. Subscribe now:
Scoping out Mount Palomar
Back when I was a teen-ager, too young to drink wine (let's not talk about those occasional sips of raw red vino mixed with 7-Up at the homes of Italian-American friends in Queens and Brooklyn), I was just about as deeply involved in astronomy as I would later come to be with the fruit of the vine. One of the astronomical landmarks that intrigued me the most was the 200-inch reflecting telescope - then the world's largest - at the Hale Observatory atop Mount Palomar in Southern California.
Imagine my delight, many years later in the early 1990s, when I had my first chance to visit Southern California's scenic Temecula Valley to pen a wine-and-travel story for The New York Times Travel Section. One of the top spots on my list of places to visit was Mount Palomar Winery, one of the emerging wine region's oldest producers, with vineyards dating to the 1960s.
As it turned out, my hopes for a wine-and-astronomy epiphany were unfounded: The winery is named in honor of the regional landmark, but the mountaintop observatory proved to be a good hour's drive over winding mountain roads to the southeast. But the wines were decent and the winery attractive, and if the regional wineries at that early point were a bit variable, it was an interesting place to visit, a compact collection of smallish producers within easy driving range of both Los Angeles and San Diego.
Temecula has since weathered an attack of Pierce's Disease, an insect-borne plague that can wipe out vineyards in a single season. But most of the stronger producers survived, and the region today is widely seen as undergoing a rebirth. At Mount Palomar, winery founder John Poole's son Peter is now in charge, and he and wine maker Etienne Cowper are producing about 14,000 cases of wine annually in a broad range of varieties, supplementing their 50 acres of estate vineyards with purchased grapes.
Mount Palomar wines are not always easy to find in retail shops outside California, but the winery offers them through its Website,
TALK ABOUT WINE ONLINE
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Speaking of Temecula, here's an announcement about an upcoming event from our partners at the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association. This memorable event on July 17 is worth a special trip, whether you know Temecula or want to learn more about it.
Southern California's Wine Country:
One spectacular evening defines the best that Temecula Wine Country has to offer: A gourmet menu prepared by six guest chefs, paired perfectly with award-winning Temecula wines! Dine with winemakers and winery owners in an intimate atmosphere, and meet celebrity chef Mario Martinoli of "The TV Diner" and KFI radio personality.
This memorable event, black-tie optional, will begin with a Champagne, wine and hors d'oeuvre reception followed by an exquisite six-course meal and gala evening you won't soon forget. A small, select 18-item live auction and 18-item silent auction will feature unique wine-country gifts and experiences.
Last year's Winemakers Gold Dinner was an early sellout with people begging for tickets! Tickets are limited, so make your reservations early for this July 17, 2004 event. Admission is $125 a person, with a portion of the proceeds going to the benefit of Children's Hospital in San Diego.
Mount Palomar 2001 Temecula Syrah
This clear, dark-garnet wine is a blend of mostly Syrah, with small amounts of Zinfandel, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon added in the spirit of an old California "field blend." Peppery and plummy aromas show Syrah varietal character, and the wine is ripe and full, juicy and ripe black-fruit flavors with spicy black pepper accents and appropriately tart acidity for balance. It's an open and accessible, crowd-pleasing Syrah but no mere "fruit bomb," good for sipping as an aperitif and fine with food. (May 3, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: We took this wine to a party buffet dinner, where it was a hit with the group and served well with a variety of grazing goodies from assorted cheeses to a Portuguese-style kale and sausage soup and an earthy Egyptian-style parsley hummus.
VALUE: The 2000 vintage is listed at $16 on the winery Website, at which price point it's more than competitive with other quality California Syrahs; California Wine Club's $10.50 sale price for the 2001 vintage is a no-brainer.
WHEN TO DRINK: Drinking very well now, but as a well-balanced and reasonably structured Syrah, it ought to fare well under good cellar conditions for at least a few years.
WEB LINK: Some portions of the Mount Palomar Website are incomplete, but short descriptions of the winery and its history and an apparently functional E-commerce section are online here:
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: As noted, wines are available for sale to consumers in selected states from the winery Website, and the 2001 Syrah and 2002 Chardonnay are available for $10.50 each from The California Wine Club Members Only page,
Mount Palomar 2002 Temecula Chardonnay
Clear, light gold, with ripe, characteristic Chardonnay apples and tropical fruit on the nose and palate, with spicy oak presented judiciously, adding accent without overwhelming the fruit. Warm and full, good balance of fruit and acid, clean and dry in a long finish. (May 3, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Well balanced and refined, a better food wine than many a California Chardonnay. It served well with buffet fare, making a particularly good match with cheeses and such seafood-based bites as chilled shrimp and a silken smoked-salmon spread.
VALUE: California Wine Club's $10.50 price is an exceptional value. The 1999 Chardonnay is listed on the winery Website at $12.95, also a very good value.
WHEN TO DRINK: Not really a wine to age, but it will certainly hold up for a year, or several, under careful storage conditions.
WEB LINK AND VENDORS: See above.
The California Wine Club:
For nearly 15 years, The California Wine Club has been introducing wine enthusiasts to wines not found in local stores. Wines like the recently featured Mount Palomar 2001 Syrah and Chardonnay and this month's San Saba 2000 Merlot and 2001 Chardonnay. It's a monthly wine adventure that is 100 percent guaranteed. Club owners Bruce and Pam Boring hand-select every wine featured and promise to refund or replace any bad wine that you may receive!
Just $32.95 per month plus shipping includes two bottles of award-winning wine and an informative 8-page newsletter, Uncorked. Receive wines monthly, bi-monthly or even quarterly! Click
My Burgundy and Champagne travel diaries now online
I recently returned from a weeklong tour of Burgundy and Champagne, our third annual French regional wine-group tour. As in our past tours, our friends and associates with French Wine Explorers, sommeliers-conseils Lauriann Greene-Sollin and Jean-Pierre Sollin, organized a flawless itinerary filled with excellent food and wine, first-rate winery visits and luxury accommodations.
My detailed travel diaries are now online, featuring day-by-day tour reports that include notes on more than 100 wines, a dozen excellent dinners, and information and photos about the many wine-related stops along our way. You'll find the Travel Diary index page, with links to each day's report, at
We'll very likely take another wine tour in France with French Wine Explorers in 2005. If you think you might like to join us, drop me an E-mail note at email@example.com, and I'll send you a personal invitation when our plans are more organized.
This week on WineLoversPage.com
Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:
Randy's World of Wine: Pinot Noir at a Crossroads
Guide to Italian Wines: 2000 and 2001 Piemontese reds
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Offbeat grapes and wine: Furmint (June 11, 2004)
Taking the Waugh Challenge (June 9, 2004)
Large wineries dominate (June 7, 2004)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Grilling season! (June 10, 2004)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, June 14, 2004